Danny Ferry Gathering Support From Around NBA

Chris Vivlamore
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Displayed with permission from MCT Information Services

Danny Ferry is gathering support from around the NBA as the embattled Hawks general manager has seen his character questioned in recent weeks following the latest firestorm that has engulfed the franchise.

“For over 30 years I have had the pleasure to call Danny my best friend,” said Nets general manager Billy King, who had Ferry in his wedding party. “He has been there for me through my toughest times as well the good. Danny, I feel as a GM, is always looking to build a team that the city he represents would be proud to support. He thinks team first as he leads.”

Ferry is on an indefinite leave of absence after it surfaced this month that he said Luol Deng had “some African in him” during a conference call with ownership and management about potential free agents in June. The comment set off an organization-wide investigation that uncovered a racially inflammatory email written by co-owner Bruce Levenson in 2012. It resulted in the controlling owner and his Washington partners agreeing to sell their stake in the team.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution spoke with several African-American coaches and front-office personnel around the NBA who have worked with Ferry to get their reaction to the comment. The support Ferry has received during the past month may not ultimately save his job with the Hawks. CEO Steven Koonin disciplined Ferry and intended to keep him in the position. However, Ferry asked for and was granted the leave on Sept. 12. NBA Commissioner has publicly said he does not believe Ferry should be fired but later said the leave of absence was appropriate. The final decision of Ferry’s future in Atlanta may well rest with the new controlling owner.

Those who spoke with the AJC spoke said they felt compelled to say that the comment was out of character. Ferry has declined comment since issuing a statement upon his leave of absence.

Ferry resigned as Cavaliers general manager after ownership fired head coach Mike Brown in 2010. Four years later, Brown is coming to his defense.

“I cannot say enough about Danny Ferry and the opportunity he gave me as a first time head coach,” Brown said. “The relationship we had at work and away from work, will be hard for me to duplicate going forward. The roller coaster ride of emotions we experienced together were easily navigated because of the blind trust we had for one another personally and professionally. We might not always agree with one another, but we could always count on having each other’s back by being on the same page when it was time to make a decision.

“And, toward the end of my first tenure with the Cavaliers, Danny never wavered in his belief in me.”

Magic Johnson sent out a series of posts on Twitter on Tuesday after the two had a lengthy meeting at Ferry’s request. Johnson, who immediately called for Ferry to be fired, said his apology was sincere and that he deserved a second chance. Ferry has also met with Atlanta community and civil and human rights leaders.

“I’m glad that Magic sat down and talked to him,” King said. “That was one of the problems I had. Everybody was attacking him without knowing him. Magic probably met him but he didn’t really know him. That’s what happens. You have to know the person before you label him something. Like Donald Sterling, everybody knew that’s who he was. That’s why so many of us came out so strongly (in support) because we have a long history of knowing (Ferry).”

Melvin Hunt, who was an assistant coach with the Cavaliers during Ferry’s tenure, also came to the defense of Ferry.

“I know this guy, I know him,” said Hunt, now an assistant with the Nuggets. “Danny’s ability to both appreciate and welcome differences was another strength of his when leading our organization. Not only did he know the importance of variety and diversity, he looked for it. Our staff over the years covered the full spectrum of diversity.

“I have said this many times. Danny Ferry can be accused of many things, but I would never use racist. Knowing his parents intimately and his upbringing, I am confident that Danny is anything but driven by a person’s color or ethnic background. I believe Danny made a mistake that he should not be characterized by.”

Tim Duncan categorized Ferry’s comment as a mistake but said he is not a racist in an interview with a San Antonio radio station Wednesday.

Duncan spoke to KZDC and defended Ferry. The two were teammates on the Spurs for three seasons. Ferry also served in the organization’s front office on two different occasions with Duncan as a player.

“Knowing Danny, he’s not what everybody’s saying about him,” Duncan told the station. “He’s not a racist. … He said something absolutely wrong and he regrets it. He’s not a racist. I know him well enough to feel comfortable saying that.”

It’s Lonely At The Top

NBA: Kevin Durant-MVP Press Conference

Most NBA teams have their media day either this weekend or on Monday so the 2014-15 NBA is officially on the cusp of starting.

After a thrilling summer which saw LeBron James bolt South Beach, Kevin Love got his wish and was traded from Minnesota and a handful of young players are poised to enter the NBA after one of the deepest NBA Drafts in recent memory, fans can soon start to watch their favorite players and teams show their worth on the court.

There are plenty of story lines to track and plenty of fun teams and players to track this season. And, if you need some help getting a grasp on how the NBA landscape has changed over the summer, there are sites you can go to for your free NBA picks.

Still, despite the flurry of roster moves this summer, there are only a handful of teams that have legit chances to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy this coming June.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are the sexy pick to win it all after adding LeBron James and Kevin Love while not needing to trade Kyrie Irving.

James is arguably the top player in the NBA while Love posted monster numbers last season and is arguably the top big man in the NBA.

Irving was named MVP of the All-Star game last season and this summer he put on an impressive performance leading America to a gold medal at the World Championships in Spain.

Still, despite having a roster built around three all-stars, the Cleveland Cavaliers will have issues protecting the rim and getting key defensive stops with the roster as currently constructed. Teams aren’t able to win championships by playing games like video games where they just need to outscore opponents.

The Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards are all one (or two) injuries away from having their seasons decimated.

It’s lonely at the top, and it appears once again the Eastern Conference likely won’t have any teams that can truly threaten the big boys in the Western Conference.

And from the Western Conference, it looks as though the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers are the only teams who can truly compete for a championship this season.

The Spurs are reigning champs, but it’s only a matter of time before Tim Duncan starts showing his age. Another question mark for the Spurs is if Tony Parker can stay healthy for a full season and extended run into the playoffs.

Oklahoma City is lurking as the alpha dogs in a stacked Western Conference. If Russell Westbrook can stay healthy and Serge Ibaka can take another leap forward, the Thunder will probably earn the top seed in the West.

Oh, and they also have Kevin Durant who is the current MVP of the NBA.

But like any NBA season, it’s a battle of attrition and unfortunately injuries will play a huge role in determining what team is the last one standing.

Personally, my money’s on the Thunder.

Yao Ming The Philanthropist Wants More Freedom To Spend

Jonah M. Kessel / China Daily

Peter S. Goodman
Displayed with permission from International Business Times

TIANJIN, China – Yao Ming thinks China needs more freedom — at least in one regard. The former NBA basketball star complained here on Thursday that his charitable foundation is hampered by Chinese rules limiting to 10 percent the share of contributions that can go toward expenses such as salaries for executives, office space and travel.

He contrasts those strictures to the rules that apply in the United States. “They have more freedom,” he said, during an appearance at the World Economic Forum. “They can set up their own rules and principles for donations.”

In China, “the government regulations are quite tight,” Yao added. “We don’t have enough flexibility.” As a result, he said, his foundation “can’t recruit the most excellent people.” He carefully added, grinning: “It doesn’t mean the people we have aren’t excellent.”

Americans may be surprised to hear their relatively liberal mode of philanthropy held up as a model. Major charitable efforts have come under scrutiny for reportedly spending more than half of their contributions on expenses.

Yao’s comments drew looks of mild surprise from a room full of Chinese and foreign fans, many of whom used smartphones to take pictures in brazen — and delighted — disregard of multiple announcements forbidding photos.

Known globally as China’s breakout basketball sensation, the statuesque Yao — all seven-foot-six of him — has long served as a de facto Chinese cultural ambassador. He also occupies a seat in the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, not traditionally a place for decrying lack of freedom in the Middle Kingdom.

But, as he reflected on his years in the United States, where he anchored the Houston Rockets basketball team for parts of eight seasons, and where he still counts numerous friends, Yao said that Americans enjoy an edge when it comes to philanthropy.

The nonprofit Yao Ming Foundation was launched in 2008 following the catastrophic earthquake in Sichuan province, in southwestern China. Under Yao’s guidance, his foundation has subsequently devoted funds to rebuilding schools in the affected area.

Yao has also led high-profile conservation campaigns, traveling to Africa to decry the killing of elephants for ivory that has flowed in large part to China.

“I was shocked by feelings I could not carry back with the photographs,” he said here, as he recalled a visit to an elephant orphanage where he encountered a 10-day-old baby whose mother had been killed in the ivory harvest.

Yao has also urged Chinese consumers to eschew shark’s fin soup in response to overfishing and has helped raise funds to spread awareness of HIV/AIDS.

Yao’s protestations about the limits on the spending of foundation contributions presented an apparent contrast to the spirit of charity advertised on his website, which notes that he and his wife, Ye Li, “have committed to paying the Foundation’s administrative costs so that 100% of any contribution from the public is directed to the charitable cause.”

“What we lack is flexibility,” he said Thursday. “We all want to hire people with the highest expertise, but we have no ability to recruit the top people.”